Patriots vs. Ravens: 5 Things We Learned from New England's 31-30 Loss
Regardless of the final score, this AFC Championship grudge match was filled with points worth noting.
Now that New England is 1-2 on the year following this 31-30 defeat, here is what we've learned.
No Love Lost Between Two Sides
After being bounced out of the playoffs by the Patriots last season, it was obvious that the Ravens weren't going to go quietly in this matchup.
Neither were the Patriots, however, who pushed right back.
The byproduct of the scrums was an uncontrolled game. The skirmishes continued long after the plays ended, and it took the officials a while to activate their whistles. In total, there were 24 penalties called during this game, netting 218 yards.
From the way this one transpired, it's hard not to imagine these two foes meeting again this postseason.
Wes Welker and Julian Edelman Can Coexist
From the looks of Sunday night's game, those sentiments are false. Both Welker and Julian Edelman saw significant reps and were difference-makers.
Welker collected eight grabs for 142 yards, and he also handled some punt returns. Edelman snagged four catches for 28 yards and a touchdown, while garnering two touches out of the backfield.
Both Welker and Edelman are dynamic players who can work symbiotically to help the offense. They will need to do exactly that in the absence of tight end Aaron Hernandez.
The Secondary Is in Trouble
The Ravens have a security blanket in Ray Rice at running back, but that didn't stop Baltimore from airing the ball out in this one.
Needless to say, the Patriots' secondary was put in a vulnerable spot.
Time after time, the officials tossed flags on the field for illegal contact, holding and pass interference. When there wasn't a penalty, it was usually because of a reception.
In total, the Ravens accumulated 382 receiving yards and three touchdown catches. This is the most blatant explanation for why the Patriots lost. It was a failure in the defensive backfield.
Down two with just under two minutes left in the fourth quarter, Baltimore got the ball at their 21-yard line. Despite the long distance, all they needed was three completions and a pass interference call to set up the game-winning field goal.
Backfield by Committee Not Extinct
Stevan Ridley may be the No. 1 Patriots tailback off the shelf, but he's not the only guy who will get touches.
New England's rushing approach versus Baltimore exemplified that. Facing one of the NFL's best defenses, the Patriots opted to distribute the wealth more equally.
While Ridley didn't have a standout game, carrying the ball 13 times for 37 yards, his teammates fared a little better. Woodhead amassed 16 touches for 43 total yards and a score. For undrafted rookie Brandon Bolden, he too made the most of his hand-offs, scoring his first career touchdown on limited snaps.
Was this divvied-up rushing attack simply a game plan for Baltimore? It's too soon to tell. But each rusher brings different assets to the table, including Shane Vereen, who was held out due to injury.
Brandon Lloyd Finding His Groove
Brandon Lloyd finally emerged against the Ravens on Sunday night, hauling in nine passes for 108 yards.
The offseason acquisition looked to be on the same page as quarterback Tom Brady, who threw Lloyd's way 12 times.
Through his first two games as a Patriot, the 31-year-old wide receiver was good but not great. Facing the Tennessee Titans in the season opener, Lloyd caught five passes for 69 yards. During the battle against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2, Lloyd reeled in eight balls for 60 yards.
If Lloyd can continue to fine-tune his rapport with Brady, there will be many more big plays to come.